Mike’s favorite saying in home improvement, furniture refinishing and life in general is that “the devil’s in the details”. He started saying it 8 years ago when we bought and renovated a home on our own. The big things seemed to get completed in no time at all, but the small things like trim, caulking holes and touch up painting took years… and years to complete. Those small things were tiny little changes and tasks in the grand scheme of a home renovation, but once they were done, they made a huge impact on a room and how we felt about the room.
Not too terribly long ago, I had a client come to me looking for a small chest of drawers to use in her guest bedroom as a nightstand and to provide storage for the room and her guests. She was great about sending inspiration pictures to me and there were several styles and colors that caught her eye. The room is in the midst of a re-design and the chest of drawers was one of the first purchases for the room. That meant that we could create a feeling and look for the room around the chest. It needed to be small to fit in the space, but she wanted it to have a big impact.
After a couple of months of searching (and a lot of patience from my client), we finally found a chest of drawers that met the size specifications and general look we wanted. The chest of drawers was basic… it wasn’t an antique and didn’t have a special story behind it. But it was made of solid wood and had classic and clean lines. Most importantly, it had 3 drawers and fit within the size requirements we needed for the room.
After thought and consideration, my client and her family emailed me a picture of a dresser they found online and wanted to use as a jumping off point for their own piece. It was a dresser covered in… wait for it… nailhead trim. The chest of drawers that we purchased for the room was actually a perfect candidate to makeover using nailhead trim. It wasn’t an antique or a priceless piece of furniture, so I didn’t feel bad drilling into it to apply the trim. But, the drawerfronts and sides of the chest were made of solid wood, so the trim could be put onto the piece without worrying about how well it would go in. I can honestly say I’d never applied nailhead trim to a piece of furniture before… but I was willing to try! It was definitely fun and intriguing attempting a new finish on a piece of furniture… and that’s easily one of my favorite things about getting to do what I do.
Source: unknown… unfortunately, the image that we were inspired by didn’t have a source behind the pin. If anyone knows where it came from, please let me know!
The first step in the process was to change the color of the dresser and still allow some of the woodgrain to show through. We decided to give the piece a charcoal gray color wash and I used Annie Sloan’s Graphite to do it. I used a 2-1 mix of water to paint and would paint a surface and go back with a rag to wipe some of the paint away until I acheived the look we were going for. The end result reminds me a little of driftwood. The woodgrain shows through and there’s no question that it’s a wood piece. The addition of the charcoal gray color gives it a weathered and warm look. I finished the painting part of the project by sealing it with clear wax.
The next step in the process was to add the nailhead trim. I chalked out a design based on my client’s inspiration picture and then started applying nailheads. I quickly learned that I could save myself a lot of time and trouble by drilling a pilot hole for each nailhead using the smallest bit I had. I would then place the nailheads in the pilot holes and nailed them in using a rubber mallet. Once I figured the process out, it went pretty quickly … definitely was not as intimidating as I thought it would be! I used real decorative nail trim from Dritz in Antique Bronze and I think I bought out the entire supply at three Joann Crafts stores in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area!
Nothing changes the look of a piece of furniture like hardware and my client wanted this piece to have special hardware. We ended up using bone knobs from Hobby Lobby (seriously Hobby Lobby… why is there not a store in Raleigh yet?? I end up travelling to Burlington or Wilson far more often than I should to indulge in your gorgeous hardware!). The knobs have a tortoise shell look to them and will end up tying in nicely to other elements my client is planning to use in her room.
MY favorite saying in home renovation or furniture refinishing is that it’s amazing what a coat of paint can do. But in this project, the paint was the smallest piece of the puzzle. This project was all about the trim… all about the details. Small things that made a big impact and transformed this little chest of drawers into a one-of-a-kind creation!